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Victorian advertisement for a supplement for nursing mothers. Even 130 years ago moms had perceived insufficient milk supply.

If you’re breastfeeding you need fenugreek, right? Who couldn’t use a little more milk supply?

When you’re breastfeeding, fenugreek might seem like the go-to remedy when things aren’t going well. But before you rush out to your local health foods store or look for Amazon’s top pick, STOP.

Fenugreek may not be the answer for you.

Some studies and several moms have reported that fenugreek can increase milk supply.

But…

…sometimes a galactagogue is not the answer.

Will Fenugreek Help?

There are certain times that fenugreek may not help:

  • Tongue-tie/ lip-tie
  • Stress induced drop in milk supply
  • Inverted nipples
  • GERD

So it doesn’t matter how much fenugreek (or lactation cookies or teas) that you take, your baby won’t nurse well if you’re having one of the above problems. The good news is that most of these problems have solutions, but the solutions just won’t involve fenugreek. (Having a problem and you don’t what the cause is or what the heck to do about it? Take one of my breastfeeding classes and you’ll get some answers and solutions. I designed my curriculum with you in mind.)

It’s also important to understand that any kind of galactagogue is only a small part of addressing real milk supply issues. Milk supply depends primarily on the stimulation provided by the baby suckling at the breast or from using a breast pump. So if you’re separated from your baby because of an emergency c-section or your baby is in the NICU, taking supplements WILL NOT be enough to build an adequate milk supplyyou will have to pump. (Believe me, I spent two weeks pumping around the clock for my oldest and if I could have breastfed him by eating teas and cookies instead of pulling out that pump one more time at some forsaken hour of the late night or early morning, I would have done it. I feel it your pain.)

So even if you really do have low milk supply, you’ll have to do frequent nursing and pumping sessions to build your milk supply. Supplements, teas and cookies can bump it up a little, but they can’t do anything without the stimulation of nursing a baby or pumping.

Fenugreek- What It Can Do

So when do you use fenugreek? And what can you expect?

If you are regularly nursing and/or pumping and you or your baby don’t have any of the other conditions listed above, you can take fenugreek to help bring your milk supply up a little bit more.

Fenugreek isn’t the only galactagogue out there either. My personal favorite was hops tea. (Though hops tastes pretty bitter and you’ll want to add some lavender flowers and/or spearmint leaves to make it test palatable.) Oats and leafy greens are also supposed to be good for milk production. Personally, I think they do help. When I was exclusively pumping I had lots of green smoothies and oats and I always had enough milk. Again, it doesn’t take the place of pumping and nursing, but in my opinion, I think it helps. I also think that leafy greens and whole grains improves the nutritional quality of breastmilk.

Do You Really Need Fenugreek?

Probably not.

Most women can make an adequate supply of milk for their babies without any special supplements. However, perceived insufficient milk supply is actually quite prevalent. (Which is why include it in my curriculum.) A lot of women are turning to fenugreek and other supplements because they think they have a low milk supply- not because they actually do.

If you have breast hypoplasia, some supplements might be helpful in boosting milk supply. No guarantees, because breast hypoplasia can be really difficult. But this is a great story of a mom who had breast hypoplasia (also known as insufficient glandular tissue) and used a combination of several strategies- including some galactagogues- to bring up her milk supply.

Galactagogues like fenugreek do have a place in breastfeeding, but there is no magic pill for milk production. The bulk of your milk production is still determined by nursing your baby and pumping.

 

 

 

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